A Matter of Perspective , available at: ForYourMarriage.org


Happily Even After

A Matter of Perspective


July 11, 2011

I think the older we get the more we realize that life is not entirely black and white.  In fact we are faced with a whole lot of grey situations.

Case in point: our recent Fourth of July family vacation.  A whole lot went wrong, but there sure were a lot of opportunities to look for what was going right.  Here are two ways of looking at each of our “unique opportunities.”

Perspective one: Smashing two totally different experiences (beach getaway and camping trip) into one outing is not a good idea.  Packing a family of five for BOTH a camping trip AND a beach vacation significantly pushes the limits of what our vehicle can comfortably accommodate.  There was no room to play with.  Also, when we were at the campsite we were annoyed by the beach toys we had packed; and when we were at the timeshare we were frustrated with the tents and sleeping bags that we no longer needed.

Perspective two: A coworker generously offered us two nights for our family at a timeshare on the Washington State coast.  We took the opportunity to tag on an extra night camping in a national forest we had been wanting to see.  We got to enjoy some of the great outdoors and then have two nights of a little luxury.

Perspective one: We went camping, had a microscopic campsite and it rained all night.

Perspective two: Even though we arrived at our campsite later in the evening, there was plenty of light and time to set up camp and take a walk on the nearby beach.  Oscar built one of the best campfires I have ever seen (and it may have been the very first time he has even tried).  I made two of the best s’mores I have ever eaten.  We all got ready for bed, snuggled in and zipped up before the rain started.  We were dry all night in our tents and the rain stopped in time for breakfast in the morning.

Perspective one: A deer tried to take out our car, leaving an enormous dent in the rear passenger door.

Perspective two: As we were entering a sleepy Washington coast town we got to see a little wild life up close and personally.  Unexpectedly, an otherwise docile deer walking along the side of the road, suddenly decided to try to jump through Simon’s door (we think it must have wanted his goldfish crackers).  It was pretty funny until we saw the damage when we got to the grocery store.  Then it was funny again after we took a toilet plunger to the dent and actually pulled almost the whole thing out.  Now THAT is a memory maker!

Perspective one: This is an icky tourist trap of a town with really dirty beaches, really bad traffic control, and far too much wind to be comfortable even when it is clear and sunny.

Perspective two: Our room is full of amazing luxuries, it is sunnier than it has been all summer, and our coworker and her family welcomed us with dinner and passes to the local heated pool.

Perspective one: Some vacation.  We are uncomfortable and fairly far from home.

Perspective two: We have great adventures together as a family even when we are uncomfortable and fairly far from home. Nothing says we have to stay in a less than ideal situation.  Let’s go home.

So that’s what we did.  We left a night early and got to see close to ten different fireworks shows as we drove through towns on the interstate.  It was magical.  At least from my perspective.  And sometimes that is all it takes in family life.  Same objective reality but a little shift in mindset and “profane” turns into “sacred.”

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A Moving Proposition

A Moving Proposition

We bought a house by accident this summer.

We had been saving up for a down payment with plans to purchase a home next summer, but thought it wise to dip our toes in the market this year, just to see where things stand. We figured that we’d have a better idea of what we would be looking at when it matters next year.

We walked through a home and found parts that we liked and parts we didn’t like. Another home was for sale across the street, so we thought we’d better check that one out, too. When we walked through this second home, we found very little that we didn’t like. We especially fell in love with the spacious backyard, half of which was thickly wooded.

We had an overcrowded summer that included nearly six weeks of continuous travel, so why not throw the purchase of a new home on top of all that? The one thing we learned from our last house transaction, however, was to take things one step at a time—that it is a long process that unfolds over months.

Every new step we came to made the way clear for us, so we kept proceeding, and here we are—we closed on the house last week and have moved everything in (thanks to some hard-working and generous friends). Most of our rooms are still packed in boxes, but we have transitioned to a new living space.

In 16 years of married life together, Stacey and I have moved ten times. By the second or third move, it was clear that we are at our worst when we are moving. Some situations call the best out of us, but moving is not one of them. Our personalities and communication needs are at their most oppositional during a move, and the stress of the transition makes things worse.

Knowing this helps some, but does not alleviate the problem that our communication patterns conflict. Despite what we know about it, that factor remains. As is the case in anything that comes up after vowing to love and honor each other all the days of our lives, we simply keep at it and do our best. What else is there to do?

We find that whenever we keep trying to communicate, though—no matter how unproductive and maddening it might seem—we always learn something new about each other.

For example, we had a week to move into our new home after closing. We had six rooms we wanted to paint, and a split-rail fence to build to keep our dog in the yard. All of this on top of packing up one house and unpacking in another.

During the painting, we found that I had much more patience to handle the detail work of cutting in the edges with a small brush. But if it hadn’t been for Stacey’s initiative and motivation to push on through the work, we would never have finished it all. When it comes to painting, Stacey is all about the quantity of the work, and I’m all about the quality. Both aspects are important—in fact, once we discovered this fact, we did our best to play to our strengths.

Another example: when it comes to packing, we are just the opposite. My idea of packing is to open the biggest box I can find and literally dump shelves into it until it is full. I simply want to get everything out, so we can organize it in the new space. Stacey had every room organized and packed up in neat and tidy boxes, each with its own label. Again, both approaches were needed—I had the drive to move the work forward, and Stacey was all about doing it well.

The biggest challenge we faced in all of this was simply having time to stay on the same page and figure out all of these communication needs. Both of us have spent every evening for the past two weeks working, painting, packing. We are doing the same work in the same house, but not in the same room. We collapse into bed, exhausted. Trying to find time to communicate well has been difficult.

I wish I could say that we put our backs together and faced this transition like heroes. The reality is that the only time we had to share with each other in a day was in the bathroom at 11:30 p.m., brushing our teeth, working through conflict while trying not to raise our voices as the children slept.

Heroism in lifelong marriage comes down to sticking with the time-worn, difficult conversations, wading through them together, and seeking and giving forgiveness. While that would not make a good plotline for the next Avengers movie, we came through the experience richer for it because we learned more about each other. Our lives have grown together in yet another new way.

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